This essay approaches games and gamification as a major problematic of the still emerging digital humanities. Games—through their mechanics, procedurality, navigable worlds, and multimedia interactions—call for new literacies that exceed traditional reading and writing skills. Digital games demand new ways of perceiving and working. They seem to matter to the unfolding of the twenty-first-century everyday, even if we do not always recognize precisely how they matter. Following an introduction to the cultural significance of digital games in the present moment, this essay turns to the Game Changer Chicago (gcc) Design Lab that Jagoda cofounded with University of Chicago doctor and health researcher Melissa Gilliam. The essay explores the ways that the gcc Design Lab’s transdisciplinary and narrative-based alternate reality game project, The Source, intervenes in the contemporary situation of the humanities. In particular, The Source’s game design and play processes offer insight into four areas: 1) the relationship between the digital humanities and social justice; 2) the affordances of transmedia design as a research method in the humanities; 3) the importance of collaboration as a key organizational technique for the humanities; and 4) the changing relationship between the humanities and sciences. While games are no panacea for the digital humanities, they are a key cultural form and critical site of negotiation in which humanists, artists, designers, technologists, scientists, and educators might productively experiment together.
Patrick Jagoda; Gaming the Humanities. differences 1 May 2014; 25 (1): 189–215. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/10407391-2420045
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